Media Blog

Arab Despots Leash Media

Just what the world does not need:

By Aziz el-Kaissouni
CAIRO, Feb 12 (Reuters) – The Arab League has floated a satellite broadcasting charter which would entrench state control over broadcast media and curtail political expression.
Arab information ministers met in Cairo on Tuesday to debate the charter, which echoes the language found in press laws used by some Arab countries to prosecute journalists critical of their governments.
Analysts say the draft is the Arab governments’ response to the relative freedom enjoyed by Arab satellite broadcasters, many of which are privately financed and which encourage open political discussion of sensitive matters.
“This is clearly an effort to try to stem (the) influence from satellite television on a political level,” said Lawrence Pintak, director of the Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo.
“But while it may produce a lot more court cases, it’s ultimately going to be doomed to failure,” he told Reuters, adding that the charter shows “the sheer gap between how governments see media and how media actually plays out on the ground”.
Cairo-based analyst Issandr el-Amrani said that the charter idea came after the proliferation of political talk shows in recent years, which gave “a much stronger voice to opposition politicians and movements like the Muslim Brotherhood”.
Writing in his blog, Amrani said that Saudi Arabia, for example, appears to have recently banned live talk shows after someone mocked the size of a civil servant salary increase — a position seen as a criticism of the royal family.

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